By Jeff Morris
As local businesses have navigated through the colour codes and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, some are slipping through the cracks of bureaucratic common sense.
Mountain Goat Yoga is one of the many Barrhaven businesses being strangled by the red tape of inconsistency. They are in the midst of their fourth closure since the beginning of the pandemic. Mountain Goat owner Julie Rollwagen is taking a different approach to surviving. In an effort to help the mental health issues in the community, she is offering free online yoga classes.
“People miss yoga,” Rollwagen said. “We are here, unable to have classes. But for some people in the community, yoga is their lifeline. When I saw how some people are struggling, I thought I’m a part of this community, and the community needs me,” Rollwagen said.
Yoga studios are struggling throughout Ontario. They fall into the same classifications as gyms and recreation centres, though what they do is completely different. Yoga, Rollwagen says, is an activity that enhances physical and mental health, and is practiced in accordance with physical distancing measures.
“Our studio is much safer than going to a big box store,” she said. “Lumping us with gyms and sports facilities shows a lack of understanding of what happens in a yoga studio, especially as movement is restricted to the space of our mat, which poses no threat to us nor to those around us while still being able to maintaining safety protocols.”
Rollwagen said her business, located on Fallowfield Road near Woodroffe in the plaza beside McDonald’s and Tim Hortons, is “hanging on. That’s all we can do.” Like many business owners, she is not drawing a salary and is pouring all of her resources into just keeping her business alive.
“I couldn’t survive another shut down,” she said. “I would rather stay closed for a little longer than open up and then shut down again. Opening and then closing is too difficult financially, mentally and physically.”
Offering free classes online has been something that has kept her mindset positive. She added that more than half of her clientele is 50 and over, with many in their 70s and 80s. The studio is more than a place to do yoga for them. One of the highlights of the week before the pandemic was the weekly Friday afternoon social.
“Barrhaven is known for young families, but we have an aging population too,” she said. “They don’t go online to do things virtually. “For some, the studio was their lifeline.”
Mountain Goat Yoga has been in business in Barrhaven for 18 years. Rollwagen said she will fight to stay open. She said that many small businesses are suffering, as there is no revenue coming in and the rent and bills are still due every month. She said she could pack it in and retire, but said she wants to stay open. “I’m where I’m supposed to be,” she said.
“I want people to stop and recognize some of these businesses that have been around for so long,” she said. “People get upset when they see a business closed, but if you want them to stay open, you have to support them.”
For more information on Mountain Goat Yoga’s free virtual yoga classes, visit mountaingoatyoga.com.